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Zach Galifianakis, before The Hangover and G Force

In television on 08/01/2009 at 2:23 pm

Zach Galifianakis has been working his odd corner of the standup stage for a while, but if the name is new to you, you might know it from his two big movies onscreen: The Hangover and G Force.

Zach Galifianakis courtesy of Comedy NetworkGalifianakis has arrived, it appears, at least to bigger paycheques. However, to really know the guy behind the awkward, clingy, drug-packing brother-in-law-to-be in The Hangover and the whatever-the-hell-his-character-is in the hamster spy movie G Force, you have to see some of his standup. Which, lucky you, you can do tonight.

Neither Zach Galifianakis Live (10 p.m. ET on Comedy Network) nor The Comedians of Comedy (11 p.m. ET) are new specials. The one-man Live special, with faux behind-the-scenes, is from 2006, recorded at San Francisco’s Purple Onion club and the Comedians, which takes in five standups on the road, was released the year before.

If you were at Just for Laughs in 2007, you have already had the pleasure, although not everyone likes this bearded comic’s rambling, rageful, disjointed routine. I have to admit when I first saw him here in Montreal at the 2007 Alternative Show, after being encouraged by a friend, I laughed about half the time, and was baffled the rest of the time. I had similar reactions to his Between Two Ferns faux talk show on FunnyorDie.com. Sometimes funny, sometimes just puzzling.

Galifianakis is aware of this, obviously: During the Live special, he seizes on an unlikely-looking audience member — safe to say his most ardent fans are young males and this guy, dubbed Dr. Eye, looked grandfatherly — and reveals to the rest of the audience that Dr. Eye had been sitting through the show with a “a look on his face like he’s trying to crack a safe.”
That sounds about right.

Gazette film blogger Al Kratina, in reviewing the Galifianakis movie Visioneers at this year’s Just for Laughs, described his performance in the bleak comedy about a soulless corporation as “deadpan to the point of a barbiturate coma”.

That also sounds about right.

But don’t be afraid. Just let go and experience the absurdity, the silliness. Enjoy a comic who introduces himself, saying, “Hi, I’m Zach Galifianakis. I hope I’m pronouncing that correctly.” And enjoy his characters, like the timid pimp, who pops up in Live: “Hi, Amber? Yeah, I can hold.”

Having just watched the Live special, I must admit this guy is growing on me. In part, it’s a good tonic after having attended a week of Just for Laughs and heard a million versions of the setup-punchline type of humour. (I know, this is a tough life.) Galifianakis cracks that mold, to say the least.

And I am looking forward to The Comedians of Comedy, which was written by Galifianakis and also features Alternative Show performers Andy Kindler and Bob Odenkirk in an on-the-road special with stage performance and reflections on the business.

Here, courtesy of Al Kratina on The Cine Files, is the trailer of Visioneers, which you’re not likely to see in another theatre near you, I suspect.

Visioneers – trailer

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